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Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is changing the protected walleye slot limit to 19 to 25 inches at Big Spirit Lake, East and West Okoboji Lakes, Upper Gar Lake, Minnewashta Lake, Lower Gar Lake and Storm Lake. At Clear Lake, there will be a 17 to 22 inches protected slot limit. These changes start January 1, 2022. Daily bag limits will remain the same (three walleyes) and one walleye over the slot limit can be harvested each day.
Currently, there is a protected slot limit of 17 to 22 inches at Big Spirit Lake, East and West Okoboji Lake, Upper Gar Lake, Minnewashta Lake, Lower Gar Lake and Storm Lake have had a protected slot limit of 17 to 22 inches. All walleyes measuring 17 to 22 inches must be immediately released. At Clear Lake there is a minimum length limit and all walleyes below 14 inches must be immediately released. Anglers can keep three walleyes per day and only one of those fish can be over 22 inches.
When you catch a walleye in Iowa, there’s a good chance that fish got its start in one of Iowa’s walleye hatcheries. Since walleye often don’t reproduce naturally in the State’s inland rivers and lakes, their populations must be maintained through the DNR’s stocking program. The hundreds of millions of eggs needed each year to keep populations healthy are predominately collected from wild broodstock populations in Big Spirit Lake, East and West Okoboji Lake, Clear Lake and Storm Lake.
“Walleye populations in these broodstock lakes are some of the most studied in the region,” said Mike Hawkins, fisheries biologist for the Iowa DNR. Biologists monitor these lakes to evaluate the effectiveness of different regulations and predict changes to the population to improve the angler experience and ensure that Iowa has a strong broodstock population.
“Male walleyes grow slower and don’t get as large as females,” explains Hawkins. They can stockpile within the protected slot. Minimum length restrictions can have a similar effect. “Changes to walleye length limits at the Iowa Great Lakes, Storm Lake and Clear Lake will allow more harvest of male walleye, while still protecting the adult female population.”
The Iowa DNR will continue to assess these regulations into the future and recommend changes as needed.